Aspiring cake makers can enroll in certificate or associate's degree programs that focus on pastry and baking. Both programs provide the opportunity for students to take internships, apprenticeships or externships where they can learn on-the-job baking and decorating skills from professionals. Candidates should also be motivated, creative, organized, know about food safety and have strong communication skills with customers as well as other team members.
Prerequisites for cake making certificate and associate's degree programs includes a high school diploma or an equivalent. Certificate programs typically take one semester to one year to complete, while associate's degree programs are completed in two years.
Baking and Pastry Certificate
Baking and pastry certificate programs prepare students for entry-level pastry cook positions in restaurants, bakeries or commercial kitchens. Students learn about decorative baking, including cake decorating and working with chocolate.
Associate of Applied Science in the Baking and Pastry Arts
An associate's degree program in baking and pastry arts includes hands-on classes in baking and pastry, during which students can learn the fundamentals needed to be a successful cake maker. Courses offered include basic and classical cake making, contemporary cakes and culinary skills for bakers.
Licensing and Certification
The American Culinary Federation (ACF) administers the main certification for cake makers, chefs, cooks and culinary educators. There are four separate pastry-based designations for applicants to choose, and each requires specific qualifications. The Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC), Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC), Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC) and Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC) all require specific years of work experience or obtained degrees. All certifications require applicants to pass written and practical examinations. Re-certification is required every five years, and applicants must fulfill continuing education requirements before applying for certification renewals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ('bls.gov'), the projected employment for cake makers (or bakers) is expected to increase by 7% between 2014-2014, which is as fast as the national average for all occupations. This is largely due to the growing need for experienced bakers who can provide specialty-baked products. The median salary as reported in May 2015 for bakers was $24,170 annually.
As stated earlier, many companies prefer employees who have several years of cake decorating experience, although some may train employees on-site. Graduates of associate's degree or certificate programs may already have work experience through internships and apprenticeships. Some employers require candidates to know how to make their own roses and transfer them to cakes. Additionally, some positions require applicants to be able to decorate a regular sheet cake in under an hour.
Continuing education classes are an ideal way for cake decorators to learn new piping techniques or how to use different icings and fondants when decorating. These classes might also fulfill re-certification requirements.
For those seeking a career as a pastry chef or chocolatier, a bachelor's degree in baking and pastry arts is offered through culinary schools and universities. Coursework includes themed cakes and wedding cake designs.
In addition, the ACF sponsors several conventions and conferences held year-round throughout the country. At these conferences, cake makers, bakers and culinary professionals can learn about chocolates, cakes and other dessert delicacies. Some baking businesses offer single-day workshops where individuals can perfect their cake decorating skills. Other not-for-profit associations offer online seminars for those in the baking industry to learn about gluten-free baking and improving technical culinary aspects.
Aspiring cake makers and cake decorators can learn the skills they need to become professionals through certificate and associate's degree programs in baking and pastry arts. These programs run from one semester to two years and include various hands-on opportunities to teach students the skills needed to work as professional cake makers.